DDP parts 9 & 10. Using the ASF.

  

Here is the latest update on our ongoing DDP sessions funded through the Adoption Support Fund, you can read about previous sessions by clicking on the DDP category at the bottom of the page.

Today Nick is taking over the blog so I will pass you over to him …

We have had two more appointments since last time we wrote; one without Tom and last week’s with him.  When Louise and I had our visit together, Dr. E pointed out that she had noticed how Louise tends to pull back from hugs with Tom when he runs up.  This, we concluded, was a response to his tendency to charge in with accidental head butts. We spent some time over the next few days helping him see how running at people might end up in bumps, and he was happy to practice slowing down for his ‘final approach’ for a hug. This paid off when we had family to stay over the weekend, but we still have work to do on respecting personal space!

With Tom’s occasional mealtime issues in mind, Dr. E also suggested finishing a meal with something with a thicker texture. Louise whipped up a banana smoothie, but he wasn’t really interested and we haven’t taken it any further. 

Tom had a sleep on the way to his most recent session, which he hadn’t done before and which seemed to help with a more relaxed start to the time.  After a while he started banging on the base and shade of a lamp with a pencil, which helped him to stay regulated. When Dr. E asked questions like, “is it hard to think about loving this Mummy?” the rate of banging instantly sped up, so between us we used it as a clue to how he was feeling for a few more questions. 

At this point he picked up a puppet he had played with earlier, and ‘the puppet’ began poking angrily into  the faces of the three of us. Dr. E asked what would help the puppet feel safe and not cross – Tom replied, “he’s hungry and wants a hug.”  When we had fed the puppet some pretend food and Tom had given it a cuddle, both puppet and Tom really settled down and engaged more readily. After more talk about love and Mummy, he cuddled in to Louise and let her rock him and sing a lullaby – he doesn’t often let us baby him in this way. 

We learnt this week that both our boys really, really like fireworks!  James will very seriously intone “Boom! Boom! F’works!” at the slightest mention, and Tom kept getting out of bed to watch for them from his window.  Their incredible excitement at a bonfire night with friends had us pretty nervous, but they both loved it and slept brilliantly all night!  I’m not sure we should recommend fireworks as a tool for regulation, but it definitely works for Tom!

In general this last fortnight has been really positive; Tom seems to be making some big leaps in attachment, with lots of talk about ‘my family’ and extra hugs. We have progress.

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DDP part 8. Using the ASF.

  

This is a continuation of our “diary” on how we are using the Adoption Support Fund to access DDP. You can read about previous sessions by going to the DDP category at the bottom of the page.

So this update is a little late, the last few weeks have been difficult for a variety of reasons which I won’t go into here. Our latest session was quite different to the first one we took Tom to the week before.

On arrival Tom was clearly unregulated and spent the whole session bumping into walls and did not stop moving for a minute, it’s exhausting just to watch when you are in a confined space. Dr E tried to engage him in various activities but he was angry, he spent quite a bit of time drawing aggressively and then deliberately breaking every colour pencil in the pack, he climbed on every bit of furniture and hid behind chairs, it didn’t go well. Eventually he asked to look at the cards of the bears with different emotions he’d looked at the week before, again he spent some time talking about what the bears were doing and how everything came back to the angry bear. Eventually I managed to scoop him in a blanket to sooth him before we left, it worked well. We also did a lot of hair blowing and stroking with cotton wool to calm down and reregulate before negotiating the journey home.

I came out exhausted, however the psychologist found it really useful in showing how he clearly has sensory and anger issues and that our techniques and the ones she’s shown us do work if he is ready to engage. I also had a revelation that what I thought was an “I need a wee” dance was actually him trying to regulate himself (he gets really angry if you ask & he doesn’t need a wee).

The regulating techniques we’re using currently are:

  • Wrap in a blanket, hold / squeeze as appropriate
  • Stroke with hands or cotton wool
  • Blow mummy’s hair 3 times
  • Blow cotton wool to each other
  • Rocking side to side in my arms (forwards and back seems to help him push up and headbutt me)

Some of these we found out ourselves, some came from Twitter and some from psychologist but I have no idea who suggested what now, but what matters is this is helping us regulate at the moment. My fear is he is getting bigger and stronger and it won’t be long before I can’t ‘contain’ him on my lap, there are times when I need to step away.

Tom has really responded to looking at the picture faces of emotions and we are going to explore making some picture emotion cards to carry around and help him and us identify how he feels.

From next week our sessions are changing slightly, we see her ourselves one week and bring Tom the other, therefore I will only be doing a blog update alternate weeks, it also gives me a chance to blog about something else in between if I get the chance.

I do think it’s been helpful to talk etc. but after 8 sessions I really want some more strategies to manage the harder times, we will get there eventually.

DDP part 7. Using the ASF.

  

This is our continuation of therapy through the Adoption Support Fund (ASF). You can read about our earlier sessions by clicking on the DDP category section at the bottom of the page.

We have entered what we think of as stage 2 (hence the change in picture), we have spent lots of time talking with the psychologist now Tom has entered the arena.

Obviously there was some anxiety about how he would find it and how we would prepare him. Dr E had advised we get Tom to bring a toy with him to help start the conversation, the clear choice was one of the many dinosaurs in our house. We explained to Tom that we were going to talk to a lady about what it was like to be part of our family, he quite liked the idea of talking all about him and how much everyone else in our family smells! 

So we arrived late (he wasn’t ready when I picked him up from school) but I think this helped as we went straight in and didn’t have to negotiate the waiting room. Tom spent the first 5 minutes running round roaring with his dinosaur and jumping on all the furniture. It was very strange to watch, normally I would tell him to stop but I felt a bit like an observer and not sure how much to say or do, he spent most of the session on his feet jumping, clearly he wasn’t sure about being there in a strange room.

Dr E got Tom to write on a piece of paper who was in his world (slight flaw in that he can’t write much yet) but he relayed his list:

Tom, mummy, daddy, James…..Tummy mummy and the other daddy and pirate parties.

There were a few things that I found interesting about the list, mainly that he had mentioned his birth family and given them “names” but also that he didn’t mention his brother and sister (who aren’t with us) or his foster family. I know from experience that sometimes the names of his other siblings and foster family can be too painful for him to say. After seeing all these things written down Tom did get quite angry and started trying to draw on the carpet.

One of Tom’s other tasks was to look at some flash cards of bears with different expressions on their faces, he picked up 3 initially; sad, hurt and angry. Dr E asked him why one of them may be feeling that way, his response was “he (A) is angry because he hurt him (B) and he (C) is sad because he (B) is hurt”. Now I don’t think either myself or Dr E expected such a detailed answer from Tom, Dr E tried to talk to him about if he felt angry if he hurt people but got very little response.

Overall it was a strange experience watching your child with someone else, Tom was as expected agitated in his new surrounding but did manage to show her some of what he’s thinking. We haven’t had any feedback yet but I hope she got some understanding of how he thinks from this short encounter. I am strangely looking forward to next time, curious about what we will learn about Tom. 

DDP part 5 & 6. Using the ASF.

  
Continuing our roundup of how we are using the adoption support fund (ASF) here is how we got on in our latest sessions. I have combined talking about these last 2 as they are not that exciting as session 5 was the last with Dr S and session 6 the first with Dr E. If you want to read about our earlier sessions they are here:

DDP part 1. 

DDP part 2. 

DDP part 3&4.

Our fifth session was our last with the current psychologist (Dr S) in the current venue. Knowing this made for a strange session, it was more of a review of what we’ve been doing so far with our current psychologist and a chance to meet the new one (they work for the same company so can share notes etc. which makes things easier!).

It was helpful to review how far we’ve all come since the boys moved in and remind ourselves of the importance of some us time and to use the mindfulness tips we were given. Now to be honest I don’t think we came out of this session with anything new except a desire to finally get round to some face to face input with Tom.

Our sixth session was again just us but with the new psychologist (Dr E) and 30 minutes from our house, the difference this made was obvious from when we first sat down, we didn’t bring with us all the baggage from a 90 minute journey with 2 small children and lots of road works. 

Again this was not a ground breaking session and did not offer us anything new, however it was a useful summary of where we were and where we are now, listening to our story of progress and filling someone in on everything from the beginning was quite emotional.

Now this is a very boring blog post but I didn’t want to have a gap in our reporting of the input we’re receiving, also they did help us with a time of reflection.

The outcome of the last 2 sessions has really been a time of reflection and of hope that we have changed, the boys have changed and we’re all still here in one piece.

Just to give an update on where Tom is:

He screams but only for a max of 20 minutes.

He will hit out but say sorry and take notice of other people’s reactions.

He is angry about not understanding his life before us.

He has settled into school but still needs lots of regulation input once home.

He is responding well to our very predictable daily routine.

Next week the psychologist will finally meet Tom! After our initial cry for help in April someone other than our SW will finally see what he is like. We wait in anticipation.

DDP Part 3 & 4. Using the ASF.

  
We have had 2 sessions since my last blog post, it has been a pretty busy few weeks which is why we’re combining them (writing about each session was a good idea but much harder in practice!). For a change Nick is writing this post (his first one) so I will hand over to him…

Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2 for those who are interested.

Session 3: 

One of the things that has come up a lot recently is Tom talking about having been in a car that crashed and hit a wall. Some of the details make it seem made-up (a four year old was driving!) but it’s been repeated often enough that we began to think it was at least partly a real memory. Dr. S suggested ways of helping him to talk more about it, and to distinguish between memories and pretend events. 

The most useful tip here was to try talking to one another about it – “Mummy, do you think sometimes Tom remembers things that are hard for him?” “I think sometimes, Daddy, Tom can remember things that were very scary but can’t always remember all about it.” “Do you think Tom knows that some stories aren’t real?” – without directly talking to your child, but keeping the conversation open enough for them to join in. Results from this have been a bit varied but Tom does seem to find more helpful than direct questioning. 

Dr. S had taken on board that the intensity of adoptive parenting makes it really hard to switch off, so we spent some time on ‘mindfulness,’ which involves narrowing your focus to the sensations of a specific activity. We were set to work on enjoying some strawberries and chocolate – so far so good – but then had to encourage each other to explore and describe the experience, which was a bit weird! However we both felt a bit more chilled afterwards, so perhaps it did help. 

Session 4:

I took Tom to the barbers’ the day before this session, and he gave a twenty-minute nonstop story the whole way there. Every sentence began with either “And do you know…” or some version of “when I was a baby…” and was a mix of recently read books, TV stories and what may have been real events or at least Tom’s impression of them.  Dr. S looked at helping him to explore these stories and tried to give us some tools for understanding his past, based on the material from last week. 

So far, however, Tom has shown no interest in anything beyond his own stories, though he is occasionally able to say that a particular incident is ‘pretend.’  This is complicated by his limited grasp of Time, meaning that lots of stories begin “when I was a grown-up” or “last week” when they can’t have been. We do have plans to try and help him draw/develop some sort of timeline picture but we won’t be doing this until all the Starting School mayhem has died down. 

Next steps:

We have a few weeks off while Tom starts school and are seeing Dr S possibly for the last time when hopefully we will know who is going to be providing the therapy.

In the mean time we will continue to help Tom label his emotions and discuss what he means by them in a PACE way.